A Personal Experience

My husband Jason and I started attending St. Margaret’s when our daughter Agatha was about six months old (October 2010). We first came to the Family Service after receiving such a warm welcome at the Friday morning Playtime, which had come highly recommended by health visitors, neighbours and friends alike.

I was intrigued to see all those involved were happily serving their local community and enjoying themselves amongst friends. Playtime is a fantastic opportunity for young families to get together. Children and babies are well-catered for with toys for pre-schoolers of all ages, while mums (and dads) can have a quick cuppa.

Given the number of children in attendance there is always a birthday to celebrate and candles to be blown out! Father Philip, with his familiar chuckle, pops in to greet people, but the main attraction is undoubtedly the puppet theatre show with songs, such as ‘Dingle Dangle Scarecrow’ and ‘Incy Wincy Spider’.

Agatha was baptised by Canon Gray in May 2011, who visited our home beforehand to discuss the details. Jason and I felt able to speak openly with him about our own backgrounds and raise our own doubts about matters of faith. I was not baptised as an infant as my parents wanted me to be able to make an informed choice about religion. I attended a convent school from age eleven so feel very much at ease in St. Margaret’s Anglo-Catholic environment.

After Agatha was baptised, Father Philip suggested the Enquirers’ Course at St. Margaret’s and I signed up with some trepidation, unsure what it might involve. However, I wanted to become part of the church that had been so warm and inviting to my family. I found I should not have been nervous at all as this has been a great opportunity to meet new people and learn about Christianity!

We met on Sunday evenings and shared a delicious home-cooked meal (prepared and served by volunteers from the church congregation). Chatter about everyday life slowly changed into heartfelt debate, about issues such as forgiveness, the meaning of the Trinity, the afterlife, the sacraments and festivals. The weekly discussions were led by Father Philip and we were also joined by Father Godfrey on a couple of occasions.

Unsurprisingly, course participants varied in their backgrounds, knowledge and beliefs, but everyone felt comfortable adding their perspectives to the discussion. This enabled the group as a whole to gain a deeper understanding of Christ even when we had to ‘agree to disagree’ on certain matters.

Father Philip used a number of different techniques in his teachings. For example, we watched part of an episode of the BBC sit-com ‘Rev’ and heard how this (somewhat irreverent) portrayal of a parish priest is essential viewing in the Gray household. Another week saw us exchange passports with one another in a session about the Creed.

This is the first time in years that I have referred to the Bible and it was refreshing to be able to question the meaning of the text with an expert who welcomes conjecture. I felt able to speak about issues that had previously held me back, which has been refreshing and whetted my appetite for more knowledge and discussion. I have realised that we are all on an individual journey of faith and that you don’t have to have ‘all the answers’ to be a committed Christian.

I was baptised alongside fellow enquirer Fiona Bentley on Sunday 29th January 2012 at the Family Service. We were confirmed with ten others on February 5th 2012 by Bishop Nick (the Bishop of Bradford). 

Despite the heavy snowfall keeping some visitors away, the service was very moving and atmospheric. It was a fitting conclusion to the preparation we had made and thanks are due to all those who contributed: the Sunday dinner cooks and pot washers, church wardens, choirs, snow-clearers, congregation and especially the families and friends of the candidates who helped free up their Sunday evenings. Father Philip and Father Godfrey (ever cheerful) kept an eye on us and ensured we did them and ourselves proud on this special day.

I would heartily recommend the Enquirers Course to anyone who has questions about their faith, or who is keen to learn more whilst making new friends. For anyone interested in being confirmed, preparation for confirmation in 2013 will begin toward the end of this year; just ask Father Philip. And if you see me at the Family Service, or having a biscuit afterwards in the Parish Hall, do say hello!

Sarah Stowe

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